WaMu Doesn't Care That Your Email Address Is Listed On Some Random Guy's Account

I was hoping I’d never have to write to The Consumerist about a company giving me grief. I never expected that it would end up being a company that I have absolutely no connections to that forced my hand.

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from Washington Mutual claiming that my online account had been activated. Seeing as how my e-mail address is pretty run of the mill I do get a lot of e-mail from people who either A) have the wrong address or B) are trying to contact people who have given out my e-mail address as their own. This was the latter case, as the fellow who opened the online banking accounts was under the delusion that my e-mail account was actually his for quite some time and I had previously received various e-mails from websites all over the web from him trying to set up accounts.

I opened the e-mail and much to my chagrin there was no opt out link. No “click here to activate the account” link that would mean that if I deleted the e-mail and never clicked the link the poor schmuck trying to borrow my e-mail address would be out of luck. So that meant I needed to call WaMu and explain the situation so my e-mail account wouldn’t be tied to this person’s account.

The first call to customer support was laughable. When I explained the problem to the lady on the other line, she asked for my social security number. Reiterating that I had no account with WaMu, she again asked for my SSN. When I told here I had no intentions of just handing out my number, especially to a company that I did not have a business relationship with, she told me there was nothing she could do for me and that hopefully the person that started the account would, “notice after a few months and change the e-mail address.”

I then hit up the Consumerist for WaMu exec information, looking to do an executive email carpet bomb. No e-mail info yet, but I did find the phone number for the WaMu executive response team. I dialed the number and talked to a lady named Rosie Alvarez who listened to my complaint and was willing to help me out. She needed to contact the person with the account in question to change the e-mail first though, and seeing how this looked to be the answer for me I agreed to wait for them to work it out. My mistake. Apparently the dolt who signed up for the online account doesn’t pick up the phone, so they have been unable to contact him.

Many months have gone by now, and every month I get an e-mail telling me that my account statement is ready, and every month I call Mrs. Alvarez back asking her to remove my e-mail address from the person’s account. I’m tired of being the nice guy, hoping that this will work itself out in the end. I’m not a customer of WaMu, so they have no incentive to make me happy. What steps can I take next to try and get this resolved?

Ryan

Since you use gmail, we suggest you set up an email filter that automatically deletes email from WaMu so that it never reaches your inbox. (See our above illustration.) We recommend this because WaMu has no business relationship with you, and there’s really nothing they can do about your request for someone else to change the email address listed on their account.

It may seem silly to you, but how does WaMu know that you’re not a scammer of some kind? The other Ryan is just lucky that his account statements are going to a nice, honest person such as yourself.

Comments

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  1. homerjay says:

    On an unrelated note- my credit union refunded my $25 overdraft fee for me when I told them it was an accident and would never happen again.

    Banks suck.

  2. coan_net says:

    why spend the time?

    I own a few domains, and I get e-mail all the time for things like this. You know what I do.

    Delete.

    Why try to correct it? Is the e-mail being sent to you hurting you? no.

  3. youbastid says:

    @homerjay: Both AmEx and BofA have refunded mine when I said the same.

    Enough with the credit union mumbo jumbo!

  4. kylere says:

    Just set it up to auto forward to their customer service email address.

  5. parliboy says:

    1: I would think his name would be in the e-mails you’re being sent. In that case, you could google that and try to find the correct e-mail address and tell him yourself.

    2: There’s always the possibility that he’s the scammer, and he’s using the e-mail address to leave you holding baggage when you skip out. You might want to protect yourself.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    It is great that you are trying to be a nice guy, but as said before, direct it to your spam folder. If the guy can’t remember his own email address, he has bigger problems than you can help.

  7. STrRedWolf says:

    Um, no. Since there’s no business relationship with WaMu, and since it refuses to opt you out, WaMu is spamming you.

    Check around. California, Washington State, and Maryland* have laws saying noone can spam you, even with the CAN SPAM act. Ask your local Attorney’s General office too.

    Also, since WaMu is incorporated in Washington State, a letter to their AG office may give you some results. That state is very hard against spammers and some state residents also sue for damages.

    You may want forward a spam complaint to ip.admin (at) wamu.net and abuse (at) wamu.net with a CC to Washington State’s AG office. Make sure you save those spams and forward them with full headers to the three addresses.

    Good luck!

    *MD I highlighted because there’s also case law. If you’re like me and have your domain’s email managed by Google (I have it filtered through a Cali server, but the domain’s in my address), any spam that is sent to me via my domain qualifies me to sue as it ID’s me as a MD resident. Doesn’t matter if it goes to a remote server once it hit’s my domain’s mail server!

  8. bunnymen says:

    I’m sorry, but I’m still marvelling at the idiot who doesn’t know his own e-mail address.

  9. ARPRINCE says:

    Yes it could be a phishing scam! I always receive emails of somewhat the same nature from Citibank, Paypal, etc. A dead giveaway is when you point your mouse on the link, the redirection shows another website so be careful.

  10. Boy Howdy says:

    @bunnymen: Yeah, that’s pretty surprising.

    I wonder if autofill could be causing this problem? Make a mistake the first time you enter your address, and it gets automagically populated in e-mail address fields.

    Of course, that doesn’t explain how the guy doesn’t notice that he’s not getting anything he signed up for.

    regarding the actual issue, even if they think the guy be a scammer, it’s a shame they won’t send the account holder some snail mail to whatever address they have on file to check with him.

  11. Mike_ says:

    I’ve got some domain names that are magnets for this kind of garbage. Someone has been selling my email address as belonging to a sports equipment retailer, so I get subscribed to industry junk lists all the time. I used to get complete credit reports of unsuspecting mortgage applicants. Sometimes I still get an occasional request for vital records (including credit card numbers for fee payments). I’ve recently been forced to filter a very persistent xenophobe who thinks she’s sending white supremacist propaganda to a local government official. The list goes on and on.

    The most frustrating messages are the ones like Ryan is describing. I can put up with random idiots using my email address when registering for an account somewhere. What is unforgivable is when the sender (1) fails to verify the address before dumping junk mail on it, and (2) fails to provide a simple method to stop the messages.

    I’d like to see: “Someone registered for an account with this email address. Click here if this was you. Otherwise, please ignore this message.” It’s not that hard to implement something like this.

  12. Buran says:

    @homerjay: Why do we have to have the “credit unions automatically solve all problems” crap in a thread that is only related to a bank because the bank is the spamming offender that refuses to stop spamming!?!? Any business could do this!

    So you use a credit union. BFD. How about I start spamming every thread with how I’m happy with my bank and haven’t had any problems with them?

  13. M3wThr33 says:

    I get this all the time. So I cancel people’s google accounts, post Tubgirl on their kodak photo album and ask inane questions that seem to piss them off.

    At least I get a kick out of it.

  14. Buran says:

    @coan_net: Yes, heaven forbid anyone try to do a good thing for someone else…

  15. spinachdip says:

    @kylere: Don’t forget Mrs. Alvarez, and you could probably figure out the WaMu CEO’s address too, right?

  16. astrochimp says:

    I agree with @ARPRINCE:

    Are you sure it’s not simply a phishing scam?

  17. homerjay says:

    @Buran: I knew that would get to you. :)

  18. Nytmare says:

    US Airways does the same thing, they email miles statements for someone I don’t know to my address, but do not allow responses to the email, and do not provide any way to opt out nor any way to reach customer service regarding it via their website unless you are that customer and have the secret passwords, etc.

    That’s not just some guy using the wrong email address, it’s incompetent design and management of a corporation’s online workings.

  19. ionerox says:

    Instead of deleting, us a mail program that will bounce the messages from WAMU as undeliverable. Then they might actually remove it from the account and send a letter to the idiot who doesn’t know his own email address.

  20. stuny says:

    I have your story beat. My email address is my FirstnameLastname@yahoo.com. One day, logging into my Discover account, it showed my email as some gibberish blb12345@yahoo.com. When I called to investigate, they offered to just switch it back. Wait! I don’t just want to change it, I want to be sure no one hacked into my account to change it. They assured me that no info was sent out and no one accessed my account (how they knew this, I can’t imagine.). I asked to speak to their fraud team. He informed me that THEIR system automatically changed my email as part of an automated data scrubbing process. I freaked out. How does your system change my email, which is clearly mine since it is my name, to some unrelated email. They had no answer to this…. Scary.

  21. AT203 says:

    I have to wonder what the legal liability here is. Original Poster is coming into possession of financial account information that isn’t his, and WaMu is complicit in sending out financial information, to someone they have notice is not the account holder. Dare I say, this could be a criminal transgression?

  22. kabuki104 says:

    I’m the Ryan from the story.

    I can assure you, it’s no phishing scam. Mrs. Alveraz has verified that my e-mail account is in their system.

    The reason I’d like my address removed is that this guy is just plain stupid. If he does manage to give his bank info out to someone else who is less kind, I don’t want to be the first suspect on the list. I don’t want to be associated with him in any way. Deleting them is what I was doing, but this has gone on long enough.

    Parliboy, I’ve tried to find this fellow. His name is Roger offhand, and there are just a ton of Roger’s out there with my last name. :(

    Bouncing the e-mail back was a great idea, but it’s not possible with gmail right now.

  23. mugsywwiii says:

    @homerjay:
    My bank (PNC) waived $245 in overdraft fees for the same reason.

  24. ianmac47 says:

    Um, if you know its a Washington Mutual account, why not just go to washington mutual’s online banking site, have the website email the password to your email address that is already linked to the account. From there you could then remove your email address from the account, if you are a good person, or if you are bad person, free money.

  25. kabuki104 says:

    @ianmac47: At this point, I’m seriously considering doing just that, but again it puts me in an akward position. I don’t want to deal with this guys bank information.

  26. kabuki104 says:

    @STrRedWolf: Great info, thank you. I’ll try and give that a shot tonight if Mrs. Alvarez–who I just left another message–doesn’t follow up with me.

  27. sweetpea12 says:

    Geico did the same thing to me! They sent me an email saying some guy had opened an account using my email address. When I called them they told me my email was nowhere to be found in their system, even though I kept receiving emails from them. I left it alone because the emails eventually stopped coming, but the guy is still using my name as his username for his Geico policy. Should I be doing anything more about this?

  28. ThomasD3 says:

    You should find emails for a few Wamu employee (like ceo’s secretaties, etc) and set to automatically forward the emails to them. They’ll eventually get fed up and fix it, and if they don’t you won’t even see it.

    just make sure the forward includes the story every time, as a signature for example. This can be totally automated and become not your problem anymore

  29. mcjake says:

    whats your email? jon@gmail.com? email@gmail.com?

  30. kabuki104 says:
  31. Chaosium says:

    @ianmac47: I believe you have to enter bank account and other personal information to change the online account info.

  32. blitzcat says:

    Consumerist reader is schizophrenic, carpetbombs his own bank…

  33. kabuki104 says:

    @blitzcat: Hahahahha

  34. chili_dog says:

    I had this thing going on too but with Esurance. I forwarded the message onto customer service and they replied that I should contact the individual and have them update the email.

    I replied that I don;t know this person and that they have all the contact information necessary. The agent actually forwarded me the Name, Address, Phone and Policy number for the person so that I could contact them to update their email.

    I forwarded the email to any and all addresses at Esurance. Not one person followed up, and I still get the reminders. DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH ESURANCE!!

  35. homerjay says:

    @mugsywwiii: yeah, but the big question is- is that ONE overdraft fee??

  36. MercuryPDX says:

    @bunnymen: … who also typed it in TWICE.

  37. Eilonwynn says:

    I regularly get email for another party. Most times I simply reply to the email with an “um… I think you mean someone else” (I once got invited to a bbq halfway across the continent because I was nice about it). In the case of “official” emails, I’m usually able to guess the guy’s email address, and forward it there along with a quick note saying, to the effect of, “yours not mine”. He’s never REPLIED TO ME OR ANYTHING, but the emails stop coming for awhile. (it’s similar to having mcintyre@gmail.com and getting email for macintyre@gmail.com)

  38. MercuryPDX says:

    @AT203: I have an Acct with them. There’s nothing financial in the email (balances, acct #’s etc.), it’s simply “Hi! Your paperless account statement is ready!”.

  39. MercuryPDX says:

    @ianmac47: You need their “username” in addition to the email address to retrieve/reset your password.

    Hopefully he wasn’t dumb enough (user, not the OP) to make it FirstinitialLastname.

  40. kabuki104 says:

    @Eilonwynn: Yep, same boat. I had one lady get rather upset with me once I told her I wasn’t her brother. I finally told her to call her brother if she didn’t believe me. Most of the time, “I’m sorry, you have the wrong person.” works just fine though.

  41. Jay Levitt says:

    I had problems like this all the time when I used screen name “Jay@aol.com”. A lot of people (and quite probably more than an average number of AOL users) don’t know their own e-mail address. Additionally, a lot of systems have problems if you accidentally type a space into an e-mail address, although that probably isn’t Ryan’s problem.

    As some have said, this is technically spam once you inform the company of the mistake. However, “technically” doesn’t usually impress a judge, especially when it’s clearly unintentional. You might be able to collect in some cases, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    As luck would have it, I was in charge of mail systems development for AOL at the time, and the kiss of death for a site (at the time!) was being blocked from sending to AOL. So I’d look up the sender’s technical contact in WHOIS, and send a nastygram pointing out that (a) they were sending unsolicited commercial e-mail, (b) they clearly did not have a proper confirmation system set up (as Mike suggests above), and (c) it was not only within my power but within my responsibility to ensure that such spam did not make its way to AOL members, if you catch my drift.

    Even with such a heavy hand, it wasn’t easy and often wasn’t effective. A lot of sites just have no technical clue; it’s much easier to set up a mailing script than it is to set up a GOOD mailing script. And marketers, especially, don’t WANT to set up confirmed opt-in lists (which they call “double opt-in”) because it lowers the response rate, even for valid addresses.

    So first I had to convince them that there was a problem at all. Then I had to convince them that “We’ll unsubscribe you” wasn’t a solution. Then I had to walk them through implementing it. If I was lucky, that was the end of it – for THAT site, but not for the thousands of others. If I wasn’t lucky, there would be bugs in the new implementation; I remember ClassMates specifically had problems that went on for over a year, despite the best intentions of their founder (who I was in touch with by that point).

    As others have suggested, if the sender won’t cooperate, and you can’t find the guy, the best thing to do is to figure out how you can log into the account and change the e-mail to make it WaMu’s problem. Usually, there is some way to get both the username and password via your e-mail address. (Check your archives; they may have even told you the user name when “you” signed up.)

  42. Buran says:

    @homerjay: So in other words you’re polluting the forum with this crap just to bait people? Real classy. Mods? Do your thing.

  43. Buran says:

    @Jay Levitt: Except doesn’t that then become illegal because you’re then trying to hack into someone else’s financial records?

  44. homerjay says:

    @Buran: Oh cool your jets.
    You just seem to get a little overly irritated when anybody points out that credit unions are better than banks. Its like the Mac vs. PC thing. Just because there’s debate doesn’t mean you have to hate.

  45. kabuki104 says:

    @Jay Levitt: I’d be afraid of legal repercussions if something happened to this guy’s account. I’ve done it before on other websites where I did have the password to some account that was signed up for with my e-mail address, but this is just a bit scarier than I care for.

    I did delete the first e-mail, but I remember there being no password given.

  46. warf0x0r says:

    You could always turn to the dark side >:)

  47. Buran says:

    @homerjay: And why shouldn’t I, and the other people who do? They really don’t solve every problem, and most of the cases where people trot out that old, tired stuff really doesn’t have anything to do with that debate. Like this. “Garbage in garbage out” is equally true for ANY business. If you typed your email address incorrectly for whatever reason in a form, they’re going to send email to that address. How exactly is a credit union going to help here? The best business in the world is going to suck if the most human of mistakes is performed by an employee or customer.

    And that’s why the “I use a credit union and this won’t possibly happen to me” attitude gets really tiring. Telling someone to “cool their jets” or otherwise get annoyed at you for pointing out this truth is just as annoying as anyone who drags out the same tired crap, or anyone who dares disagree with those who drag it out.

    I don’t hate you personally, but really, there’s a reason people are complaining.

  48. homerjay says:

    @Buran: Okay, you’re right that this was probably the wrong bank-specific post to add that comment to, but it would have fit nicely in just about any other.

    That being said, I’ve seen your other comments when people say things like that about credit unions under posts where there is far more justification and you do get a little hot under the collar. Really, I’m just curious- why is this such a hot button for you?

  49. icarusprime says:

    “Seeing as how my e-mail address is pretty run of the mill”

    Well maybe … get an email address that isnt so run of the mill and then cancel the run of the mill email adress. ta-dah.

  50. kabuki104 says:

    @icarusprime: I figured someone was going to suggest this.

    It’s not an option, sorry.

  51. Buran says:

    @homerjay: Why is it such a hot button issue for you that you had to drag those two words, and overdraft fees (which have nothing to do with unwanted spam) into the discussion, then continue to go on the offensive against someone who points out that it was unwarranted?

    Probably for similar reasons.

  52. Buran says:

    @icarusprime: So it’s the victim’s fault.

  53. homerjay says:

    @Buran: Touché. Truce.

  54. Jasmo says:

    @Buran: @homerjay: Please, guys, go piss on each other somewhere else, K?

  55. kabuki104 says:

    I just got off the phone with Mrs. Alvarez. During the conversation, I sent her an e-mail from gmail, proving that it is mine. She’s going to try again tomorrow to get this idiot to realize that he’s got the wrong e-mail address.

    I even told her to have this guy contact me. I’d love to explain to him how e-mail actually works.

  56. icarusprime says:

    @Buran:

    whoa! … um, no, i am not saying that at all. i am just adressing the email address. he is even aware that his email address could be the issue as it seems to have been an issue with other things. I actually use Wamu and I am pretty happy (for the first time in a long time with a bank) so it sucks that he is getting the run around.

    My first email addy (a hotmail account) was created in 98/99 it was pretty generic as well and I finally ditched it in 2001/2002 for countless issues that were also not my fault. it seemed daunting but all was well in the world of electronic mail with in a month for me. but it seems it is not an option for him so … good luck.

  57. kabuki104 says:

    @icarusprime: Hey, I can’t say I’ve not considered it. But so very many people I know use this account, I can’t get rid of it just yet.

    Mrs. Alverez got back to me, she managed to contact this guy again, and it turns out it’s his wife that has the account wrong. She was just making an assumption that said account was his. They are going to change their settings, and use another e-mail address.

    Huzzah!

  58. Jay Levitt says:

    @Buran, @Kabuki: You’re right, I hadn’t considered the “access to financial information” aspect. In my day, electronic banking was in its infancy, and it was always with custom software, not a web site. So misdirected e-mail was always about mailing lists, clubs, your recent eBay purchase, etc. I saved a bunch of the good ones; I need to go look through them one day.

    Anyway, in those cases, the privacy harm of me doing that kind of redirection was low – if there was important personal information involved, they would usually understand the importance of them fixing it before I let word get around that they sent credit card numbers to random recipients, etc. So the only people left with “Nothing we can do to change it” were people with relatively uninteresting transactions – mailing list signups.

    If it was something you needed to go All The Way with, you could probably get an laywer who knows his privacy, IP, tresspass, and other wire-line rules, and make sure that if “bank sends me a password for an account”, then “I access bank using that password” is not “unauthorized access”, which goes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

    Sounds like in this case, logic and persistence prevailed.. no, really, this isn’t me, I swear.

  59. coren says:

    Sounds like you had success, but if they don’t answer their phone and this has been going on for months, what about snail mail?

  60. stubblyhead says:

    I had something similar happen to me with the Seattle Public Library, but one phone call was all it took to get it straightened out. I think it did take me a few minutes to get the lady I was talking to to understand the problem, though.

  61. Taki says:

    I have the same thing happening from Verizon Wireless. Every month I get a mail letting me know this guy’s online bill is ready. The email has a link at the bottom for “If you have received this email in error…” but that just takes you to the support site where you have to log into your account to get help.

    One of the emails actually included the guy’s phone number, so I called him and told him to change his email address. He said he would, but I still get the emails. Maybe he thought I was just some crazy guy calling him.

  62. @ARPRINCE: Wouldn’t the people at the bank be able to tell him that they haven’t been sending him any e-mail?

  63. Buran says:

    @Jasmo: We’re done. :)

  64. Buran says:

    @homerjay: Deal! :)